The Two Pillars of Leadership

Let us consider power for a moment:  One cannot be a leader without the ability to exercise some sort of power and influence.

There are essentially three types of power – coercive, positional, and true power.

Coercive power is when someone leverages a weakness of another.

Positional power is when position alone gives the holder of that said position the ability to command and control.

True power is very different – while both coercive and positional power are legitimate forms of control and authority, they are only effective because of the fear motive they create in followers:  fear of loss of credibility, job, position, added income, and so on.

True power is so very effective because the motive and reason for compliance comes as an intrinsic drive from within the follower.  This is the difference between the shepherd and the sheep herder:

When caring for a flock of sheep, at different times of the day and season, they need to move around for watering and feeding purposes.  A shepherd is the person that looks after the sheep.  The shepherd knows his sheep and the sheep know their shepherd.  When the shepherd calls, the flock will respond to the sound of his or her voice.  The shepherd walks at the front of the flock as he searches for better grazing, and the sheep follow him.  The sheep herder, on the other hand, does not walk at the front of the flock.  Instead, they walk behind the sheep with a crop and whip, and push the sheep in the direction they want them to go.  It is a tiresome and stressful process.

The shepherd uses a form of true power to lead his flock; while the sheepherder has to coerce and constantly monitor.

Which of the powers mentioned do you feel would be most effective, and result in sustainable and lasting change?  Which power would you like to possess?  If it is true power you seek, then you will have to answer the following question:

How is this intrinsic drive or motivation created?

As I consider all of our leadership research and our exposure to top leaders, two things stand out as fundamental pillars upon which all true leadership and its associated power rests:

Trust and Respect.

Think carefully about the leaders you have come into contact with throughout your life and the power they exerted. There will be those one or two that stand out in your mind as top people for whom you still have great admiration and respect.  What made them different?  What is it about them that causes you to feel that way about them?

I’m certain that in most, if not all cases you trusted, and continue to trust, that leader.  And that is the first, and most important consideration any leader should make about him or herself – am I trustworthy?  Respect is a natural result of trust.  As your people see that you follow through with what you say, trust is nurtured, and respect is created.

While sitting with Greg Solomon, MD of McDonalds SA, he mentioned something that I took special note of:  when working with people, he applies a particular equation to assess each individual in his team and often makes decisions against the result – the equation is simply Trust (?/10) x Respect (?/10) = a value out of 100.  So, for example, if a person is earmarked for a leadership position, Greg and others will be asked to rate him or her out of ten on trust, and then do the same on the respect side. The average scores are then multiplied (ex 8X8 or 9X7).  And if the result is below 70 or even 64, he is able to start formulating a strong perception about that individual as a leader.

We would do ourselves a great service if we applied this same process in our own lives.  And not only by rating others this way, but applying it to ourselves as well.

Exercise:  Approach a few people that you work with/live with/are friends with, that will give you honest answers, and ask them to (anonymously if they would prefer) give you a score out of ten for trust and then for respect.  Multiply these and see where you rate.

And if you don’t do as well as you thought you would, perhaps there is some work for you to do – often we are honest, trustworthy people, but others misunderstand who we are and perceive us as something different.  In this case, just work hard to ensure your values and beliefs, and the values and beliefs you communicate/portray are aligned and consistent.  In some cases, you may simply not be as honest as you should be, in which case you will know to work hard to re-evaluate what you value and the means by which you go about pushing for your goals.

Your ability to have trust for and show respect to others is a good indicator of a mental/emotional maturity that seems to be waning in our current communities and society.  And others trusting and respecting you is a very important indicator and confirmer of the above mental/emotional maturity you may or may not enjoy at this point.  In fact, it is the test – if you feel you are mature in that way, test your feelings against the feelings of others. (Even the choice to take this test is, in and of itself, an indicator of your maturity as a person and leader)

The final and most important question we need to ask ourselves when it comes to power is why?  Why do you want power?  The answer to this question will in large measure lead you to understand which type of power you are interested in obtaining, and what type of decisions you need to make now in order to obtain that power.

A seamless leader chooses the third type of power we mentioned today – real or true power.  He or she does this because there is an understanding of the big picture:  While other forms of power may get the job done, they inhibit growth of key ingredients to build successful and profitable teams and organisations.

To conclude and summarise:  There are essentially three main types of power, the greatest of which is based in and upon trust and respect.  It is worth every bit of pain to make this shift in your leadership thinking and philosophy. The fruit enjoyed after such efforts will be your ability to exercise true power, or in other words, people will trust you to the point that when you ask them to do something, they will do it because they want to.

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Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Founder of Future CEOs™ and co-host of the Future CEOs™ show on, Gareth seeks to empower high potential young executives and ambitious entrepreneurs as they push for CEO status.

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